Birmingham Stallions vs. San Antonio Brahmas | Championship Preview

Birmingham Stallions vs. San Antonio Brahmas | Championship Preview

On one side, the two-time defending champs: The Birmingham Stallions. On the other side, a hungry San Antonio Brahmas team that has proven they can beat anyone in the UFL. The ultimate goal – the inaugural UFL Championship trophy.

The Birmingham Stallions come into this game with a 10-1 record this year, with their only loss coming against these very Brahmas. Despite some of the personnel changes this team has dealt with, Birmingham continues to find ways to win, with the culture Skip Holtz has built with this team.

However, the San Antonio Brahmas are getting hot at the perfect time. They’ve knocked off the Stallions and Battlehawks over the past few weeks, and are getting their key pieces back as well.

With so much on the line ahead of this matchup, let’s break it all down.

Quarterback Play

The cat is out of the bag: the Birmingham Stallions will be rolling with Adrian Martinez on Sunday. Martinez, the MVP of the UFL, was benched this past weekend for Matt Corral. Corral ended up winning the game for the Stallions, but Skip Holtz says that Adrian got them to this point, and will remain the starter.

Adrian Martinez has had a tremendous year with this offense. Just because he’s had a couple of off games doesn’t mean that he won’t see success this weekend. However, Martinez has to get back to the fluid play he had earlier in the season. Defenses have adjusted – to an extent – to his scrambling abilities. Adrian has to find a way to beat those adjustments.

On San Antonio’s side, Chase Garbers is the reason why this team has the ability to win a championship. He returned from injury sooner than expected, and played one of the best games of his professional career this past weekend against St. Louis.

Chase is the exact prototype who fits into A.J. Smith’s offensive schemes perfectly. We’ve seen this all year long. For Garbers, getting off to a fast start will be key, so he can remain in rhythm throughout the affair.

Standout Playmakers

The San Antonio Brahmas have arguably the most electric offense in the entire UFL. When healthy, Anthony McFarland and John Lovett are unstoppable. They’re two of the best backs in the league, and are a one-two punch that is nearly impossible to slow down. St. Louis had zero answers for their rushing attack on Sunday.

Jontre Kirklin, Marquez Stevenson, and Justin Smith are the definition of speed. Their abilities to create space vertically is something that A.J. Smith certainly does not take for granted. With Latimer ruled out for the season, expect TE Alize Mack to also get some looks this weekend.

On Birmigham’s side, their depth at every position is unreal. There is a reason why this team continues to win week after week, and year after year. GM Zach Potter put together arguably the best Stallions roster yet.

TE Jace Sternberger has been on a tear as of late, and that shouldn’t slow down in the championship game. Jace earned All-UFL honors for a reason, and with his knack for picking up big gains in crucial moments, should receive plenty of attention against San Antonio.

Two Elite Defenses

The bread and butter of these two teams starts with their defensive performances. The San Antonio Brahmas have had one of the top units in the UFL, led by first year DC Will Reed. In fact, they’ve topped the stat sheets in almost every defensive category, with his defense putting up another spectacular outing against the Battlehawks this past weekend.

Birmingham, on the other hand, has seen some ups and downs. They sputtered for a couple of weeks defensively, with the staff turnover between John Chavis and Corey Chamblin. However, they’ve seemingly regained their spark – and shut out the Panthers in the second half en route to this Championship game.

With how this matchup played out in week nine, it’s likely that this one will be another defensive affair.

Comparing The Statistics

Heading into the postseason, both of these teams were at the top of the leaderboards in various categories. San Antonio took a dip offensively with some of their injuries midway through the year, but still managed to remain relatively consistent across the board:

  • Stallions averaging 347.5 yards per game (1st), Brahmas with 296.6 (4th)
  • Birmingham putting up 26.5 points per game (1st), San Antonio with just 19.3 (6th)
  • Brahmas allowing only 256.7 yards per game (1st), Birmingham right behind them at 259.5 (2nd)
  • San Antonio’s defense giving up a league-best 15.3 points per game, Birmingham in 2nd at 18.0
  • Birmingham leads the UFL with 17 takeaways, San Antonio dead last at 10

Birmingham and San Antonio are two of the least penalized teams in the UFL – but, Birmingham struggled with this the past weekend. They had 11 penalties against the Panthers, yet still managed to find a way to win.

Takeaways From Week Nine

There’s a few key points and takeaways we can digest from re-watching week nine’s matchup. In that game, the San Antonio Brahmas came away with an 18-9 win at home, ending the Stallions’ 15 game winning streak.

It all started with the dynamic play of RB Anthony McFarland, who set the tone early by breaking off a couple of big runs. Even without John Lovett in the lineup, McFarland and Morgan Ellison took care of business. Ellison ran for two scores on the day, while Anthony was utilized more so between the 20’s.

For the Brahmas, it was their ability to put pressure on Adrian Martinez with just four pass rushers that made things very difficult on Birmingham’s quarterback. Their rush would get after him very quickly, even though they weren’t blitzing. It felt like Adrian was knocked off balance a bit early, and San Antonio’s defense did an excellent job of keeping him out of rhythm all afternoon long.

Another storyline that worked out in the Brahmas’ favor was Birmingham’s lack of success on third downs. They were just 3/10 on the day (30%). What really impacted this stat-line, though, was the fact that the Stallions struggled greatly on first and second down. They were constantly setting themselves up for long third down scenarios, which are difficult to convert, no matter how good you might be.

Brahmas’ Defensive Coordinator Will Reed spoke about how important it is for the team to replicate what they did in week nine:

“We have to go back and look at what we did the first time [against Birmingham]. How can you improve it? What do you do as a change up? You have to stay close to what you did, because obviously it worked, and then kind of go from there. You can’t reinvent the wheel with three practices. You have to have a plan to make sure you keep those mobile quarterbacks in the pocket and kind of go from there.”

Even then, Birmingham was in a position to tie the game down the stretch. A couple of key mistakes ultimately cost them: firstly, Martinez and WR Kevin Austin were not on the same page on a deep ball. Austin was wide open, but couldn’t quite locate it. Then, on 2nd and 5 with time left – and a timeout remaining – Adrian forced a throw into triple coverage, and it was intercepted.

It’ll be intriguing to see how Martinez responds on Sunday. In week nine, it was Will Reed’s defensive unit that controlled the majority of the game. We’ll see if Adrian can rewrite the narrative this weekend.

Coaching Matchup

San Antonio Brahmas | Wade Phillips: In all of his 55 years of coaching, this is the first time that Wade Phillips is playing for a Championship as a head coach. He’s done an outstanding job of turning this Brahmas organization around, and despite all the injuries and headaches this team has faced, they’re now playing for the title.

Head Coach Wade Phillips had some comments on what it means to play in this game, and what the team has to do:

“It’s an awesome feeling. Certainly, it’s one of your goals when you first start a season to play for a championship. We played well in that game against Birmingham. We want to emulate as much as we can from that game. They’re a really good team, and they’re going to change some things, but we’re gonna change some things too. We just want to play consistent. We’ve had a strong defense all year. In that game, we had over 100 yards rushing on them, so if we can do that again I think it will give them a lot of problems.”

Birmingham Stallions | Skip Holtz: Skip Holtz has a 31-4 record throughout his spring football career as a head coach. This Stallions team knows how to win football games because of the culture Skip has created down there in Birmingham. However, he’s got a unique challenge ahead of him: trying to take down Wade Phillips for the first time. Back in week nine, it was Wade’s team who got the best of him.

Final Thoughts

At the end of the day, one can only speculate so much. In just a couple of days, words will be put into action as these two teams face off in the inaugural UFL Championship.

One storyline to watch will be the reaction of the fans in St. Louis. Their Battlehawks are not playing for the title, so how many of them will show up? Not to mention, will San Antonio and Birmingham fans be traveling to this game? Hopefully, the crowd makes for an electric environment in The Lou.

The UFL Championship will kick off at 5pm ET on FOX.

Full Roster Breakdowns: Birmingham, San Antonio

What are your thoughts on the upcoming UFL Championship between the Birmingham Stallions and San Antonio Brahmas? Which UFL players will impress? Let us know down in the comments below, or join the conversation on Discord!

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